Lapeyrouse Cemetery – Trinidad’s City of the Dead

Many persons have heard of New Orlean’s city of the dead with its daily tours of tourists. Lapeyrouse cemetery is Trinidad’s city of the dead and a city it is indeed with buildings, alleys, streets in a grid pattern and residents, albeit most of the residents are not moving but each official resident has a fixed address. At Lapeyrouse, it is almost possible to trace the entire economic life of Trinidad and who made the money, for the rich bury their dead in grandiose style and here can be seen more than just fancy headstones but raised tombs, crypts, mausoleums and statues.

Lapeyrouse cemetery is on the western edge of Port of Spain but with the enlarged metropolitan area that Port of Spain has become it really can be considered more in the center of the city. This burial ground is bounded by Tragarete Road on the north, Park Street on the south, Colville Street on the west and Phillip Street on the east. At the southern entrance to the cemetery there is an inscription intended to remind all of us that our days are numbered and it reads “Stop, traveler, e’er you go by, So are you now, so once was I,As I am now, soon you will be.”

The cemetery is laid out in an almost rectangular pattern with numbered streets running through the area. As you wander through this final resting place of Trinidad’s prominent and not so prominent citizens, certain structures catch your eye as some are designed to look like churches, some like mini homes and others simply as solid resting places. Among the larger structures are the tomb of the Famille Agostini, the Herrera family tomb, the resting place of Carlos Robertson from 1886, the Cabral family vault and the church like structure for Famille Comte L.A.A. de Verteuil. Another interesting family tomb is that of the Jodhan family which has chairs, candles, statutes, chaplets and pictures all inside and laid out as if for family members to come and sit and remember the deceased or possibly converse with them.

After the British conquest in 1797, Port of Spain was in need of a new burial ground and so land was acquired in a small area bordered by Tragarete Road, Richmond Street and Fraser Street. A wall was erected around it, and by 1813 it was referred to as the ‘Old Cemetery’. As the town grew, more land was needed and so the land was acquired from Picot de la Peyrouse, a French nobleman who had come to Trinidad in 1778 under the Cedula de Populacion and established a sugar cane estate on the outskirts of Trinidad and built the first factory for the production of Muscovado sugar (brown sugar). Picot de la Peyrouse had allocated 20 acres for the creation of a cemetery and had a dedication ceremony in 1823. By 1831, this cemetery had acquired the name Lapeyrouse because it was on the old estate lands. Within just a few years, the cemetery was again enlarged, this time buying lands from the Shine family. Over the next few years, more land was acquired from the Dert family (pronounced Der), who had started the first coffee estate in an area between Queen’s Park south and Tragarete Road in the 1770s (they are remembered through the street with their name just north of the cemetery).

The northern entrance to Lapeyrouse cemetry is called the Perry Gate and is named after American Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry who died near Trinidad on August 23, 1819 and was buried at Lapeyrouse Cemetery, Port of Spain. In honor of him there is a monument adorned with historical details and the metal gate leading into the cemetery is decorated with silver-coated coats of arms of Britain and the United States. The monument was completed and opened on April 11, 1870, in the presence of the governor and Mayor John Bell-Smythe. In April 2012, The Perry Gate was refurbished by the US Government.

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